Coupling of Rigor Mortis and Intestinal Necrosis during C. elegans Organismal Death

Evgeniy R. Galimov, Rosina E. Pryor, Sarah E. Poole, Alexandre Benedetto, Zachary Pincus, David Gems

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Organismal death is a process of systemic collapse whose mechanisms are less well understood than those of cell death. We previously reported that death in C. elegans is accompanied by a calcium-propagated wave of intestinal necrosis, marked by a wave of blue autofluorescence (death fluorescence). Here, we describe another feature of organismal death, a wave of body wall muscle contraction, or death contraction (DC). This phenomenon is accompanied by a wave of intramuscular Ca 2+ release and, subsequently, of intestinal necrosis. Correlation of directions of the DC and intestinal necrosis waves implies coupling of these death processes. Long-lived insulin/IGF-1-signaling mutants show reduced DC and delayed intestinal necrosis, suggesting possible resistance to organismal death. DC resembles mammalian rigor mortis, a postmortem necrosis-related process in which Ca 2+ influx promotes muscle hyper-contraction. In contrast to mammals, DC is an early rather than a late event in C. elegans organismal death. Video Abstract [Figure presented] Galimov et al. describe mechanisms of organismal death in C. elegans. They document a rigor mortis-like wave of muscle hyper-contraction accompanied by Ca 2+ release and falling ATP, which is coupled to the previously described wave of intestinal necrosis in a process that resembles a distorted and deadly defecation cycle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2730-2741
Number of pages12
JournalCell Reports
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 6 2018


  • ATP
  • C. elegans
  • aging
  • calcium
  • muscle
  • necrosis
  • organismal death
  • pathology
  • rigor mortis


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